This week’s topic stems from a situation I found myself in recent months with a new author who’d asked me to read over their book before it published. I want to start off by saying that I do not even remotely consider myself an expert in the field of book publishing, but I have learned a lot within the last few years.
I’ll admit that I couldn’t finish the book because I was so distracted by the lack of editing and the choppy flow within the first 20% of the story. The book was desperately in need of a good editor and a good group of beta readers. Publishing your debut is very exciting and nerve-racking all at the same time, but there are some things you need to make sure that you’ve done before you click publish. Your debut will give your readers the first impression of your writing style and story-telling ability and in some cases could make or break you.
First impressions, in my opinion, are the most critical step to publishing more books. If your book is poorly edited, the time line is all wonky, and especially if your sentence structure hinders the flow, you may find yourself in hot water with your potential readers. Readers, especially those who are critical of grammar, may blast your book and place you on the never read again list based off of just one book. I think by following the things I have listed below that you can make your debut release as best as it can be.
1. Don’t rush your book.
Take your time writing your book and self-editing. You need to make sure that you have clearly led your characters where they want to do and not overly detailed the book. When you rush, you make mistakes like calling your character by two different names or switching the ages on characters mid-way through the book. Just take your time and write from your heart.
2. Don’t skimp on the editing
Most new authors have a very small or non-existent budget for their first book. But, editing should be your biggest expensive in writing. Just like point #1, if you rush and skimp on the editing, the readers will notice and your reviews will not be glowing. If you don’t rush on your release, you will have the time to save up for a good editor. I’d also advise trying to find beta readers who can pinpoint troublesome areas and help your story flow better. A secondary don’t for this topic is don’t let your friends edit unless they can be unbiased and brutal. You need those kind of readers to make sure your book is up to snuff. Grammar dictator friends are nice when you’re an author, but only if they tell you the truth about your book. Protecting your friendship and feelings is hard if you use a friend in this capacity, but honesty is truly the best policy.
3. Don’t ignore bad reviews.
Embrace the feedback. This is problem the hardest part of publishing after writing and editing. If you have thin skin and are easily hurt with negative words, I’m just going to come out and say that you may not be cut out for writing. You will get negative reviews and for some of those Goodreads reviewers, they will be demeaning and hurtful. But, it is what those reviewers say that should take precedence in writing your next book. If they talk about your editing, character development, overuse of certain words, or even timeline issues, you need to take those to heart when plotting your next book. If you see reviews like that from betas or ARC readers, you might consider pushing back your release to make sure you can make the necessary changes. Granted, of course, that you didn’t set-up a pre-order on Amazon. They may say out with the bad and in with the good for everyday life, but in book world, it’s completely the opposite. Embrace the bad and create the good.
1. Run your book through multiple betas and proofreaders
This! A hundred times, this! Every single person reads a book differently and notices different things. By finding a great group of beat readers and two good proofreaders on top of your editor will go a long way. I often run the unedited manuscript through my beta readers before sending it to my editor and even some times during the editing process. Before I send my final read through back, I always run it through one of my proofreaders and the other when I get the final copy back to make sure we caught everything. Having just one person fill every one of those rolls will lead to mistakes because you will honestly go blind to spotting errors after the second or third read-through. Every big time author has a team behind them and big or small, you need one of your own to make sure your book is as perfect as it can get.
2. Scour your timelines, ages, and names before publishing
I don’t know how many indie titles that I have read this year where this was a problem. A character would start off being in his mid-twenties only to jump to his early thirties within three or four chapters. Every time I start to write, especially when the book is in a series, I make out a timeline chart of character’s ages, the birth of their child, ages of their family members. Having this readily at my disposal makes the writing and plotting process easier for a new book. I also keep all of the old timeline charts and character profiles so that I do not have to spend weeks on end trying to re-work the previous books to get that information. I’d also suggest having a list of characters names so if you decide to bring side characters for a short time that you don’t end up with two or three Bob’s or Betty’s in the same series.
3. Research the market and pick a good release date
You’re probably wondering why I said good release date. There’s a reason I wrote it that way and it might shock you. Indie authors, especially new authors, need to research their genre market when picking a release date. Say you wrote a MC romance novel and you decide to publish is on a Tuesday in July. Chances are you book will not be seen because July is a big MC Romance release month because of the Sturgis motorcycle rally. Most MC authors will do a big release in July because of the rally. Tuesdays are also bad because every traditional published author releases their books on Tuesdays. Don’t believe me? Watch some of the big time blogs on a Tuesday and you will see what I mean.
As a debut author, you have to be smart about your release day. Other than Tuesdays, you need to avoid major holidays like Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and New Year’s Eve. Not only will your pool of readers be smaller than normal for impulse purchases, but bloggers will be away with their families. By publishing on a holiday, you will lower the likelihood of your book being seen or promoted by a wide margin. Market Smarter, and you’ll sell more books.
Avelyn Paige is an Wall Street Journal and USA TODAY bestselling Motorcycle Romance author.